Category Archives: Yard & Garden

Crop Circles

With the spring thaw this year, I discovered crop circles in the back yard!

But rather than blaming aliens or the paranormal, I blamed my own sloth.

Late last fall, we raked our mass of leaves into one mountain and one smaller molehill. It was dark by the time we finished, so we said we’d move it to the curb the next day for pickup. Then it rained, rained and rained some more. Weeks went by. Critters moved into the pile, which seemed to shrink under the accumulated weight of the rain. It snowed. And finally, one day in late November, we scraped the rotting mess up to the street to be sucked up by the giant leaf vacuum.

This spring, as the grass began to come back to life, the outline of the leaf pile still remained yellow and dead. In the past couple weeks, some life is returning, but it’s mostly dandelions.

Next fall, I pledge to promptly remove all leaf piles, no matter how dark it is!


The Jungle Next Door

I have found the advantage of the vacant house next door: it makes my own lawn look downright manicured.

But how long will the grass get before someone takes action?

With foreclosures growing, we’re up to three on our block. In the winter, it wasn’t such a big deal. The houses looked kind of peaceful with their undisturbed blanket of snow. I often shoveled the sidewalk next door because it was a quick job – what’s another 10 minutes when I’ve been outside an hour? – and to help the numerous walkers around here. Nope, not being selfish at all with my walk to the train.

Now that spring has sprouted a jungle next door, though, there’s a very clear line where my lawn – and my labor – ends and the property next door begins. Until Sunday, my dandelion population helped bridge the difference (the fallow land across the street sends a swarm of dandelion seeds my way), but especially since my second mow of the year, it’s painfully obvious.

For now, I’ll let live and be thankful that the one next door looks just overgrown and lush. But the second a tiger comes after me… I’m calling the city.


Stupid wind destroyed my tulips less than two weeks after they bloomed.
Though there are still petals all over the place.

Luckily, the seedlings I planted last weekend are starting to take hold in the new soil and mulch.

Winter – Vanquished!

After days and days of rain, I saw this in my front garden as I came home:

And now it’s raining again.

I hope that Saturday will be dry enough to plant my egg carton-bound seedlings into solid ground!

Planting Again

Growing up, we had intricate landscaping put in by a previous resident. With black lava rocks and evergreen bushes, it was very dark and retro-70s, like much of the house. My experience with gardening consisted of Mom handing us shoeboxes and telling us to pull weeds on hot summer afternoons. She would pay us a set price per box we filled – usually a dollar or two.

In my apartments during and after college, I started quite a colony of houseplants, sharing cuttings with friends. I abandoned most of them when I got my cat, since it turned out most were poisonous to her.

My last apartment had a great little balcony. I installed planter boxes on the railings and tried to grow a variety of flowers and vegetables. I got a bit of basil out of the experiment, but not much else.

But in the house, my latent green thumb has come to life! From my first stab at zinnia seedlings the first spring to a series of ceramic pots lining the driveway, each boasting a different herb or vegetable, I’m starting to get the hang of it. And this year, I realized that waiting we’re past the danger of frost to plant outside means no blooms until mid-June at the earliest.

In addition to my tulips (now in their third year!) which are starting to come up of their own volition, I started a bunch of seeds in egg cartons out on the front porch. There have been some cold mornings but I think it’s just warm enough to foster life.

And I’ve got my first attempt at lettuce, going gangbusters. The zinnias and nasturtiums are starting, too, as is the basil. I can’t wait to get it in the ground.

Botany & Lumber-Jilling

For a yard with no trees, we sure do have a lot of leaves. Every year, the city starts their leaf pickup in early October, when everything is still lush and green and firmly attached. By the third week of October, though, it’s actually raining leaves. I worked at home one brisk day a couple weeks ago and actually got up to look outside at a couple points to see if it had started raining. It sure sounded like rain, but in reality, it was just the sound of thousands of leaves falling – in unison – to the ground.

Our neighbors behind us have the annoying mulberry tree that will drop all its leaves in one fell swoop in the next couple weeks. The neighbors next door have two giant, ancient oaks that drop bushels of big, broad, crunchy leaves, and plenty of acorns Our yard is torn up from the increased squirrel activity, as they frantically try to bury as many acorns before the ground freezes. One brilliant squirrel even buried an acorn in my tomato planter. I’ll bet he goes hungry this winter. Apparently a previous owner paid neighborhood children a quarter per bucket they filled with acorns, then stored the nuts in the garage and parceled them out to the varmints all winter. I’m dealing with generations that may remember that elderly woman – and expect the entitlement to continue. Liberals.

Despite having no trees, we do have one overgrown bush – maybe it’s a mini tree?- that blocks the main living room window. It scrapes up against the house, making pinging noises against the aluminum. A couple times each year, I go out and trim it way back, stopping the scraping and allowing a bit more light through the narrow window. When I first moved in, I thought it may be a lilac, as there were a couple small blooms that have never since reappeared. The leaves on this tree are small and annoying, as the rake doesn’t really pick them up. As long as they don’t get wet, they tend to just blow away and disperse.

I did my fall trimming a couple weeks ago, first taking off everything I could with mere hedge trimmers. Then, for the taller branches, I had to jump up, pull them down and hold in place while cutting. Some of the skinny ones – the newer growth – were easy to snap off, while others required the saw. It was great fun and satisfying to pull down branches bigger than me.

That entire bush/tree will likely come down early next spring, to be replaced with something smaller that doesn’t block the window. I think it’s too late in the season now for a new plant to take root and survive the winter. Of course, I said the same thing at this time last year. Inertia’s a bitch to overcome, no?

I thought I was done with tar…

I spent nearly three hours this afternoon sitting on the driveway by the back door, trying to remove the tar that had splattered up onto the new storm door during our paving project. We had realized – too late, obviously – that we should drape a tarp over the door to ensure the splatter didn’t mar the pretty new door.

Since then, I’ve repainted the foundation to cover the splatters along the driveway. We tried a couple different products to remove the tar from the siding and back door, gingerly testing inconspicuous areas. One removed the finish from the aluminum siding entirely, exposing shiny metal!

Today, I finally decided to give it some real elbow grease. I grabbed the one that didn’t hurt the siding – a Turtle Wax bug and tar remover – and doused a couple square inches of the bottom of the door, then waited 10 minutes instead of the suggested one. Sponge in hand and fingers crossed, I rubbed until the tar bubbles began to give way. Hooray! It was a slow and tedious process, but I’ve done all that I believe is possible. A couple places now sport small yellow spots, but the paint will camouflage that. (We were planning to paint as part of the door project – once EVERYTHING was done – but didn’t want to just paint over the tar bumps.)

I also discovered late in the game that a toothbrush was much more effective than a sponge, which could have saved some thumb strain. But the effort was well worth it.


Now that there’s a noticeable chill in the air, I finally found the cord that connects my camera to my laptop!

A random lily of sorts, which I never planted. Last summer, a plant sprouted up, but nothing ever bloomed. This August, I had three beautiful blossoms.

The peppermint stick zinnias turned out kind of interesting, though I’m still on the bubble about them. They almost look diseased!

The small front flower bed, overflowing with nasturtiums, which I had never planted until this year. They remind me of water lillies. Supposedly they’re quite tasty, though I haven’t sampled them. You can also see a couple rogue bachelor’s buttons that came back after last year.

More fun than a frost heave

I had a frost heave appear on/in/under my driveway last March. It mostly settled itself – the driveway shrunk back down nearly to its normal height once spring settled in. And I swear I’ll actually seal the crack(s) once and for all during the upcoming (now weather-pending) Crack Weekend.

One of my favorite bloggers, National Review’s John Derbyshire, apparently has a similar problem, though the timing suggests something other than a frost heave. His inquiry for ideas lead to a bevy of possibilities, including subterranean mushrooms, an old well, dandelions (a problem I’ve had – they do push through asphalt!), a volcano, a baby driveway (i.e., sidewalk) and more. Possible solutions range from fungicide to shotguns. All of which are far more interesting than my problem and (lack of) solution.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Common sense would have dictated that I mow the lawn tonight. I’ve got more clovers than a Lucky Charms box and the edges are looking pretty shaggy. It didn’t quite need to be mowed over the beautiful, perfect weekend, and besides, it was busy. By this morning, though, I knew my days were numbered before Code Enforcement comes a-knocking.

But did I get home, change into my grubby yard clothes and mow the lawn in the 75 degree sunshine? No… instead, I whined about my super-sore legs (who knew staining and gardening could be such a lethal combination?) and lounged in the backyard with a book. And now I learn that the rest of the week will be hot and humid. Serves me right, I suppose.